Philēmata

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This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

“Εἰ δὲ δεῖ μεθέντα τὰς μυθολογίας αὐτὴν εἰπεῖν τὴν ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις ἡδονήν, ἐγὼ μὲν πρωτόπειρος ὢν εἰς γυναῖκας, ὅσον ὁμιλῆσαι ταῖς εἰς Ἀφροδίτην πωλουμέναις· ἄλλος γὰρ ἂν ἴσως εἰπεῖν τι καὶ πλέον ἔχοι μεμυημένος· εἰρήσεται δέ μοι, κἂν μετρίως ἔχω πείρας. γυναικὶ μὲν οὖν ὑγρὸν μὲν τὸ σῶμα ἐν ταῖς συμπλοκαῖς, μαλθακὰ δὲ τὰ χείλη πρὸς τὰ φιλήματα. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο μὲν ἔχει τὸ σῶμα ἐν τοῖς ἀγκαλίσμασιν, ἐν δὲ ταῖς σαρξὶν ὅλως ἐνηρμοσμένον, καὶ ὁ συγγινόμενος περιβάλλεται ἡδονῇ. ἐγγίζει δὲ τοῖς χείλεσιν ὥσπερ σφραγῖδας τὰ φιλήματα, φιλεῖ δὲ τέχνῃ καὶ σκευάζει τὸ φίλημα γλυκύτερον. οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἐθέλει φιλεῖν τοῖς χείλεσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ὀδοῦσι συμβάλλεται καὶ περὶ τὸ τοῦ φιλοῦντος στόμα βόσκεται καὶ δάκνει τὰ φιλήματα. ἔχει δέ τινα καὶ μαστὸς ἐπαφώμενος ἰδίαν ἡδονήν. ἐν δὲ τῇ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἀκμῇ οἰστρεῖ μὲν ὑφ’ ἡδονῆς, περικέχηνε δὲ φιλοῦσα καὶ μαίνεται. αἱ δὲ γλῶτται τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον φοιτῶσιν ἀλλήλαις εἰς ὁμιλίαν καὶ ὡς δύνανται βιάζονται κἀκεῖναι φιλεῖν· σὺ δὲ μείζονα ποιεῖς τὴν ἡδονὴν ἀνοίγων τὰ φιλήματα. πρὸς δὲ τὸ τέρμα αὐτὸ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἡ γυνὴ γενομένη πέφυκεν ἀσθμαίνειν ὑπὸ καυματώδους ἡδονῆς, τὸ δὲ ἄσθμα σὺν πνεύματι ἐρωτικῷ μέχρι τῶν τοῦ στόματος χειλέων ἀναθορὸν συντυγχάνει πλανωμένῳ τῷ φιλήματι καὶ ζητοῦντι καταβῆναι κάτω, ἀναστρέφον τε σὺν τῷ ἄσθματι τὸ φίλημα καὶ μιχθὲν ἕπεται καὶ βάλλει τὴν καρδίαν· ἡ δὲ ταραχθεῖσα τῷ φιλήματι πάλλεται. εἰ δὲ μὴ τοῖς σπλάγχνοις ἦν δεδεμένη, ἠκολούθησεν ἂν καὶ ἀνείλκυσεν αὑτὴν ἄνω τοῖς φιλήμασι. παίδων δὲ φιλήματα μὲν ἀπαίδευτα, περιπλοκαὶ δὲ ἀμαθεῖς, Ἀφροδίτη δὲ ἀργή, ἡδονῆς δὲ οὐδέν.”
(Achilles Tatius, Leukippē & Kleitophōn 2.37.5-10)

‘Now, if we must leave the realm of mythology and speak of the very pleasure of the act—well, my own experience with women is limited*, extending only to intimacy with those who put Aphrodite up for sale. Perhaps someone else who has been initiated might be able to comment in somewhat greater detail; but I shall speak nevertheless, moderate though my experience be. A woman’s body is doughy when you embrace it, her lips soft when you kiss them. This is why she can hold her companion’s body perfectly enfolded in her embraces, in her very flesh, and he is enveloped by pleasure. She places kisses onto your lips like the imprint of a seal. She kisses with art, and her techniques sweeten the kiss: for she is not content to kiss with her lips alone, but attacks with her teeth as well, nibbling around her lover’s mouth and kissing with bites. A hand on the breast, too, has its own particular pleasure. When Aphrodite’s peak is reached, the pleasure stings her into a frenzy: she goes crazy, her mouth gaping wide as she kisses. All this time tongues have been weaving in and out of one another,and they too are pressed into the job of kissing, in so far as they can: your job, meanwhile, is to increase the pleasure by opening your mouth. And as she comes in sight of Aphrodite’s own finishing-post the woman naturally pants with blazing pleasure: when her gasp is driven up by erotic exhalation as far as the lips of the mouth, it meets with the roaming kiss as it seeks to penetrate down below; the kiss is whirled around and blended with the gasp, then it follows it back down and strikes a blow to the heart, which is convulsed by the kiss and begins to palpitate. Were the heart not bound to the innards, it would pursue the kisses and tear itself upwards. Boy’s kisses, though, are immature and uneducated; their embraces are unlearned, Aphrodite works lazily with them, there is no pleasure to be had.’

* An ironic variation on the standard rhetorical captatio benevolentiae ‘unaccostumed as I am to public speaking…’

(tr. Tim Whitmarsh, with his note)

2 thoughts on “Philēmata”

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